A team with something to play for is always more dangerous than a team without a purpose, and the Albany Great Danes have that something.
“If you didn’t believe in angels, I think what just [happened] should prove to you how magical they really are.”
That is the tweet that Emma Hooley sent from Australia after watching her brother Peter Hooley hit the game-winning three pointer against Stony Brook to send Albany to the NCAA Tournament. For the Hooley’s, though, it wasn’t just a game-winning buzzer beater.
In January, Peter and Emma Hooley lost their mother to colon cancer. It is safe to say that Hooley will use the memory of his mother to try to propel his school past the offensive-minded Oklahoma Sooners in the round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament.
It’s a good thing the Great Danes have motivation, because they don’t have much of a resumé. However, the school has won 19 of its last 20 games, a ratio that cannot be denied in the eyes of the Sooners come March 20. But while the streak is impressive, the wins are certainly well below quality wins. The school’s best wins have come against the likes of Vermont and Yale, but it has also dropped games against Quinnipiac, Holy Cross and Bucknell.
But let’s not forget what happened the last time the Sooners faced a seemingly inferior opponent in the NCAA Tournament. In the 2014 bracket, 5-seed OU matched up with the 12-seed North Dakota State University Bison in the first round and lost 80-75 in overtime. The Bison shot almost 53% for the game and nailed a three pointer as the clocked disintegrated towards zero to send the game into extra time, when they eventually won. The Sooners played one of their worst offensive games of the season that day, shooting only 37.4% from the field.
With that loss on the back of their minds, the Sooners should not take the Great Danes for granted. Albany even hung with number one overall seed Florida in the first round of the 2014 tournament, so they are definitely not one to take lightly.
Albany does have one x-factor player in 6’6” senior forward Sam Rowley. The team has its motivational player in Hooley and its stats player in Rowley. Rowley, the senior, who, like Hooley, is also from Australia, averaged 14 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 51.1% from the field. He seems to be an effective forward, so he is a player to look out for in the purple.
But more than that, Albany spreads their points out pretty evenly, as well. Three players, Rowley, Hooley and Evan Singletary, average in double figures and another, Ray Sanders, averages 9.7 per game. Even point distribution is always tough for defenses to defend because they can’t pinpoint their strategy to one player. Albany averages 65.5 points per game, and the Sooners average almost 72, so the game has the potential to be a high-scoring affair.
Albany could pose a great threat to make the Sooners’ basketball season come to a skidding halt. The Great Danes seem to have the angels above on their side, so the Sooners desperately need the three point gods on their side come March 20.